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Gun replica phone case is a daft idea

A number of years ago, there was a Saturday Night Live skit about a company called “Bad Idea Jeans.” The clever SNL troupe created a series of mock advertisements that showed people doing dumb things as a way to promote their jeans. In one of the more popular installments, the actors portrayed a group of white, out-of-shape college kids who came up with the bright idea of going into an inner-city neighborhood to challenge a group of tough-looking hombres to a game of basketball on a run-down playground court.

“One hundred bucks!” one of the students shouted to challenge the home team, pumped up with idiotic bravado — and wearing the Bad Idea Jeans.

“Yeah, let’s do this!” shouted another, as they headed onto the outdoor court — where they no doubt were about to get their fannies kicked and lose their money.

“Bad Idea Jeans,” intoned the narrator.

Fast forward to 2015, and we hear of an idea that would be a natural installment for a company such as the fictional Bad Idea Jeans: an amazingly ill-advised new product that is apparently being imported into the United States from China and elsewhere in Asia. The product is an iPhone case that looks like a handgun.

Makes sense, right? Your phone rings, and you reach into your pocket and pull out what everybody around you thinks is a gun. Wow, how cool is that? Or how about walking into your bank with this sweet new phone case hanging out of your back pocket?

The new phone cases do indeed look very much like guns. They appear to be real. Too real. As a result, an item like this is likely to put those who use it at risk. The phone case is also sure to make the job of law enforcement officers even more difficult and dangerous — and that is not fair to these public servants.

Frankly, this product is an invitation to trouble, and we wonder why someone would want a phone that looks like a gun in the first place. In a time when a number of citizens have been mistakenly shot while holding a regular cell phone — or a candy bar, for that matter — pulling out what truly looks like a gun in a crowd or on the street might get you shot.

The situation is worrisome enough that it has caught the attention of law enforcement agencies — including the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Earlier this month, WCSO officials put out a two-page press release warning of the potential dangers of carrying this product.

“Deputies often make split-second decisions about whether a gun is real,” read an excerpt of the WCSO alert. “In a fast-developing situation, if someone pulled this device out to call someone, it could have tragic results.”

WCSO Sheriff Pat Garrett was blunt in his personal assessment of the new gizmo: “This dangerously realistic gun phone case is marketed as cool and trendy when, in fact ... quickly pulling it out of a pocket or bag could have catastrophic consequences.”

We share Sheriff Garrett’s concerns. It’s sad that some people don’t have the common sense to avoid gimmicks like this. We hope Washington County businesses decline to stock these gun-replica phone cases, and we hope the companies producing them think twice about it.

A couple weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), called for a federal ban on iPhone cases that look like handguns. He pointed out that the gun cases appear to be manufactured outside the country, and he called on customs officials to “block the importation of these fake weapons that appear to be in violation of U.S. law,” citing the federal requirement that fake guns have bright orange plugs at the top of the barrel to more easily show they are imitations.

We agree with Schumer’s call for a ban.

Like the fictional Bad Idea Jeans, this product is simply bad news. And to would-be entrepreneurs out there considering similar dumb ideas, we recommend keeping this bit of business logic in mind before coming out with an item that looks like a gun: It’s probably not wise to produce a product that might get your customers shot.

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